Beads on One String Foundation
“Oneness at the heart of all”
2013 has been a full and active year for the Beads Foundation. We supported three projects. In March, we worked with the Conscious Network, a student organization at the University of California, Berkeley, and filmed a seminar in which speakers explored how to change the world through conscious living. In September, the Foundation funded the Heartland Pilgrimage, a journey of forgiveness. Fifteen pilgrims traveled in two vans from Charlotte, NC along the Cherokee Trail of Tears to Oklahoma, the land of the Cherokee Reservation and Meher Baba’s 1952 car accident. The pilgrims returned following the trail of the Civil Rights Movement through Mississippi and Alabama, resting at the Meher Spiritual Center before departing for home. Along the way, the pilgrims stopped at sites significant to the Cherokee and the Civil Rights Movement, sharing personal and profound moments with individuals from both groups.
In October, the Beads Foundation offered a seminar in the hills of Malaga, Spain concentrating on the creativity which has come about through the intimate dialogue between a devotee and God. The 50 attendees from America, England and France were inspired by the workshops offered by lovers of Christianity, Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Meher Baba. Two days of workshops were capped by a whirlwind one day pilgrimage to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sites in the Andalusian countryside, a land where the three religious societies once lived together and produced a cultural and spiritual golden age. Although all of the traditions have their own flavor, throughout the seminar the differences of those traditions faded as the participants shared their deep connection of love for God.
For the Board of Directors, these projects and the experience of creating an organization which is an experiment in new approaches to old belief systems have been rewarding and challenging. We have developed an organizational structure which promotes openness, transparency, effectiveness, and fairness, all within the parameters of the US charitable tax code. We miss the spontaneity which Don Stevens, the founder of Beads on One String, was able to offer in his generosity. Although our process is slower and more restricted than when Don was in charge, it continues to be inspired by the intention to help seekers in their search for Truth and Oneness.
This year we finalized our policies and procedures which has been demanding but extremely important. With well defined protocols in place we are able to offer scholarships to spiritual workers and project attendees. We also are able to accept project proposals from a variety of sources and sponsor new and exciting activities.
One interesting and unexpected question which arose in 2013 relates to politics. The observation was made that the Heartland Pilgrimage engaged in politics when it included sites significant to and visits with persons of the Civil Rights Movement. The pilgrims vehemently maintain that their exchanges with these individuals transcended history and politics and instead connected with human suffering, a universal experience. Through this sharing many pilgrims experienced a deep connection, a feeling also reported by some of the Cherokee and African American guests.
This question raised by outside observers and objected to by the pilgrims has evoked much reflection by the Beads Board of Directors. What is political? Is it possible to address a charged history, transcend politics, and find a point of connection in Oneness? Is human suffering a point of connection beyond politics? These are challenging questions because they require one to confront assumptions about the elements which compose the exploration of the unity of all life, spiritual pilgrimage, and connections of people from all traditions, sacred and secular.
From its inception the Beads on One String has been an experiment, pushing established definitions and conceptions of Unity. These questions about politics are of that very nature. In early 2014 the Board of Directors will meet by teleconference to find answers and develop a thoughtful policy.
We have other plans for 2014, too. They include the publication of a book about Don Stevens as well as archiving his extensive collection of documents, films, and artifacts related to his life with Meher Baba. In the autumn, one of our directors will research the possibility of sponsoring a seminar in India similar to the very successful one in Spain. Throughout 2014 we also will continue to hone our organizational structure as well as develop a database and expand the website. We are a volunteer organization and welcome those who are interested in helping with our work. We have openings on several of our committees. If you are interested, please contact Marnie Frank, Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also welcome project proposals for activities which support our mission, “the exploration of the unity of all life.” For more information, please contact Marnie.
With the beginning of a new year we are grateful for the work we have been given to do and the many people who have helped us. We look forward to a full year ahead and welcome all who are interested to join in this experiment of the Beads on One String.